Clients backdooring Candidates… it’s not what you think.

There are so many things I could have blogged about this week…. Like the client who took too long to offer the perfect candidate and missed out on him… my fault apparently… or the candidate I’ve been chasing for a few months who finally agreed to meet with me, only to have her grand mother die and now she won’t return my calls… oh… and before you call me a callous, cold hearted slug, I happen to know from a mutual acquaintance that she doesn’t have any grand mothers left to fall off the perch… or Trump… or Australia’s cricket team… or how close Christmas is… etc. etc. etc.

a2But… with all that amazing material I fell on something completely different. This week I want to talk about clients backdooring candidates.

What do you do when you discover that a candidate you represented to a client 5 months ago mystically appears on your LinkedIn feed…. you know…. The old congratulate Monty Python on their new job… and at the very client you represented them too?

This happened to me last week. After much discussion in the office, we decided I should give the client a call… as always names are changed in an attempt to protect the guilty… and the call went a little something like this.

Ring… ring (this happened more than twice, but to keep the narrative moving and to minimise word use I just thought I would restrict it to 2 rings… like ring… ring… got it?)

a3‘Hello, Camilla Barker-Poles speaking?’ Are you chuckling? I’m chucking…

‘Hi Camilla… Craig Watson here from Watson Collard.’ Than I said nothing… silence… for what seemed like an age….

‘Oh… hi… Craig.’ She was choking on her words… she knew she’d been caught out. Time to go for the kill…

‘The reason for the call Camilla… is that I see Kevin Arnold has joined your business…’

‘Yes Craig… he… has… joined us.’ Wary now… looking for a way out.

a1‘And we represented Kevin Arnold to you 5 months ago. You are aware that in the terms we agreed that if you employ a candidate we represented to you within 12 months you are liable for the fee?’ Too smug?… too forceful?

‘No Craig I wasn’t aware of that.’ Let me just stop Camilla Barker-Poles right there for a moment… you see I am 100% sure she is lying… why? Well those of you who aren’t aware I recruit recruiters for other recruitment companies… Camilla Barker-Poles owns a recruitment agency… she has the exact same clause in her terms with her clients… how do I know? I’ve seen her terms.

‘Anyway…’ she continued. ‘We employed Kevin in a different role to what we originally interviewed him for.’

‘I should hope so.’ I replied. ‘From the email I have here in front of me you said he was not suited for role. You also said he wasn’t a good culture fit… what changed?’

The conversation went back and forth. Camilla Barker-Poles flat out refused to accept that she was responsible to pay me a fee and I was equally insistent that she was. The phone call deteriorated from there… it got ugly.

I sent Camilla an invoice… to date she hasn’t paid… or acknowledged the invoice.

I know I’m not alone in this situation, but what are you doing to prevent it happening… or when it does how are you handling it?

It is incumbent on all of us to ensure clients understand the terms they are signing. And then… when they breach them we must hold them to account. The fear of losing a client should not stop you from holding them to an agreement… should it?

And… to be honest… do you want to work with a client who has been caught out trying to defraud you of a legitimate fee anyway?

Craig Watson


7 thoughts on “Clients backdooring Candidates… it’s not what you think.

  1. Terry Obligeous on Reply

    Sorry Craig, I absolutely wouldnt be paying your invoice either and would find it quite distrubing if you called myself asking for the fee. Agencies dont own candidates. Candidates are not products – they are living, breathing human beings & who’s not to say that the candidate re-called the client to kick start conversations again ? What is they happened to bump into each other at a conference and hit it off that led to the new role being created ? If the client had perhaps hired that candidate in this scenario a couple of weeks later, then sure, your fee may be applicable – but 5 months later, never. If you were calling that client weekly and kept reminding him about that candidate they originally said no to, or if you were in touch with that candidate weekly re-asking him if he would be interested in working with that company, then again, your fee would be applicable. Just randomly seeing an update on LinkedIn and then calling the client for a fee like a vulture over a dead body – just reinforces the poor reputation recruiters have in today’s modern world.

    1. Craig Watson on Reply

      Oh Dear Terry….. Clients sign terms of business – which have very clear clauses around their responsibilities with regard to candidates. If you are supporting illegal avoidance of clear responsibilities then I shake my head in utter disbelief… I’m doing it now… shaking my head whilst I’m writing this… please excuse any spelling errors… have you ever tried to type whilst shaking your head? Not easy mate.

    2. Julie on Reply

      Terry, I assume that you are paid for your professional work? Then so should we as Professional Recruiters. No – we do not own our candidates (nor do we charge them for the hours we put in on their behalf) but when we have a contract with a client we have the right to ensure the terms of that contract are adhered to.

  2. Hannah Weinberg on Reply

    Global data suggests that around 1 in every 500 submissions results in a backdoor hire, and I’m yet to speak to a recruiter who hasn’t experienced at least one. HIRABL is software that notifies you of all candidate and hiring manager movements, so you don’t miss out on the opportunity to have a conversation with the client if they have ‘backdoored’ one of your candidates. Craig it’s great that you picked this one up, I wonder how many lost agency fees are really out there?

  3. Terry Obligeous on Reply

    Sorry Craig, but we’ll have to agree to disagree. I think the whole situation is unfair, you do not – not sure if either of us will move from those stances, but appreciate the opportunity to voice my side of the matter nonetheless.

    If agencies had a 1 month representation type clause I feel that would be much more fairer, but 6 months and even 12 months according to one agencies T&C’s I have in front of me at the moment – that’s far too long.

    In this highly connected and online world we live in today, an agency cant possess blanket ownership over any candidate in the exact same manner you did 10, 15 years ago. You even mention you only found out about your scenario by looking at LinkedIn. You weren’t in constant contact with the candidate asking the questions, you weren’t regularly asking him if he was still interested in your client. So to just stumble across his own initiative (or perhaps the clients initiative) to start speaking to each other again with your cap in hand looking for a fee – is unfair and just plain out wrong to do.

    Not saying every case like this will be the same and am sure in some scenarios agencies will be hardly done by when this is done willfully & deliberately, but having terms & conditions that grant you total ownership for 6/12 months with then little actual contact with that candidate in that time and/or working to still actively get them into that exact client you first mentioned to them, just doesn’t sit right with me.

  4. Thom Brown on Reply

    Thank you, Terry Obligeous, for letting us know that you are unscrupulous and dishonest, and would sign an agreement with no intent on honoring it. I for one, will make sure to Never help you with your hiring needs, no matter how much you promise me. A contract is a contract, don’t sign it if you don’t like the terms. If you sign it, honor it, as it is your word. 1 month is a ridiculous time frame for a referral to be honored, 6 months is a bare minimum. Any employer can put off the process for 4 weeks to avoid the fee. We work hard, all day, every day, to find talent for our clients. What this client did is theft, plain and simple, and they know it. That being said, Craig, in reading your approach to the client, it sounds like you went in with both guns ready to shoot. Maybe you could change your approach from “ah ha, I caught you”, to “Oops, seems like a mistake was made. How can we fairly compensate me for my work in finding a candidate that you obviously agreed was a winner, and how can we fix this so that we don’t have to go through an uncomfortable moment like this moving forward. Obviously, I’ve proven that I can be a great asset to you in your talent acquisition efforts, so let’s look for the long term win-win for both of us.”

  5. Julie H on Reply

    Terry, I assume that you are paid for your professional work? Then so should we as Professional Recruiters. No – we do not own our candidates (nor do we charge them for the hours we put in on their behalf) but when we have a contract with a client we have the right to ensure the terms of that contract are adhered to.

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